Blue Jackets smother Flames to climb off bottom

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Antoine Vermette scored the winning goal in the third period to lift the Columbus Blue Jackets off the bottom of their division with a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Friday.

Vermette's wrist shot at 5:22 gave the Blue Jackets a two-goal advantage, enabling the visitors to cling on for victory after Calgary's Rene Bourque reduced the deficit to one. Vermette also assisted on both of his team's other goals.

Raffi Torres opened the scoring 1:25 into the game and Jan Hejda made it 2-1 in the second for Columbus (17-20-9), who moved two points clear of the St Louis Blues at the foot of the Central Division.

The win also has the Blue Jackets setting their sights on fighting for possible playoff position.

"You never know, other teams have come from far back," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock told reporters.

"If we can keep playing well and get this thing to .500 then we have the big home schedule in February, March and April, we can still do some damage."

After falling behind, Mark Giordano equalized for the Flames to make it 1-1 at 15:47 in the first, but Calgary (25-14-5) struggled thereafter and fell to a second straight defeat.

"The whole night, we didn't take enough shots, didn't create enough shots or enough chances," Calgary captain Jarome Iginla said.

The Flames were riding a five-game winning streak before their latest two defeats but despite the loss, stayed tied for the Northwest Division lead with the idle Vancouver Canucks.

The Blue Jackets have won two straight on the road after losing 13 straight away from home. Goaltender Mathieu Garon stopped 20 shots for his 100th NHL win.

Calgary netminder Curtis McElhinney had 19 saves as both teams fired an identical 22 shots.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)